It had long been an ambition to travel to New Guinea and view and hopefully photograph the unique fauna, in particular the Birds of Paradise (photos can be viewed on www.flickr.com/photos/neiljulianthomas/sets). However Papua New Guinea remains a very expensive destination so a trip to West Papua with Papua Expeditions (www.papuaexpeditions.com) seemed a more affordable option. The expedition cost was £2,821, not including flights. Papua Expeditions has been operating for ten years, and is, in my opinion, a model of how responsible eco-tourism should operate. The whole trip ran remarkably smoothly, which, given the logistical difficulties of operating in a country with basically no tourism infrastructure must rate as an achievement.
Both Like and Iwein, who run the company, worked incredibly hard, with Iwein searching for the birds, and Like responsible for turning out one delicious meal after another in the most hostile of conditions.
I would unreservedly recommend Papua Expeditions, but anyone booking a place on an expedition must be aware that a reasonable level of fitness is required, and that in order to have a chance of seeing some of the most fantastic birds in the world one will have to endure a certain level of discomfort from heat, humidity, rain, mud, mosquitoes and chiggers.
Papua Expeditions do make this absolutely clear in their pre-tour information, which is very clear, the only thing I might differ on is that I would say a telescope is actually quite useful in most locations, and to have at least one between the group is a definite asset, and given the fantastic snorkeling available on the atoll of Wei we visited on the last day I would definitely recommend squeezing a mask and snorkel into the rucksack.
The group size is limited to 6 people and we comprised two Brits and 4 Americans. It says a lot for the tolerance, flexibility and enthusiasm of the Americans that we were all on the best of terms after 3 weeks in the field.
29th July. With 4 flights over two days with 3 airlines the potential for some sort of problem seemed considerable, but the outward journey went remarkably smoothly and at 5.30 am we were met by Like and Iwein from Papuan Expeditions on the island of Biak in, unfortunately, torrential rain. After dropping off our bags at the immaculate Hotel and a snatched coffee and cake were out in the field in an area of second growth forest. I was surprised to hear virtually the entire island had been logged to feed the rapacious demands of a sawmill, that then drove itself out of business as it ran out of trees. As most of the island is a limestone plateau regeneration in many places is slow.
The first Papuan birds were familiar from Australia -Dollarbird, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Brush Cuckoo, Dusky Myzomela, Metallic Starlings, Willy Wagtail, but the first New Guinea endemics were the conspicuous and noisy Hooded Butcherbirds, and Long-tailed Starlings. Swiftlets were ever-present, with the Glossy Swiftlets reminding me of day flying bats as they flew very close to the ground, with more aerial Uniform Swiftlets above them. Small birds in the canopy of scattered trees were Olive-backed Sunbirds, Black Sunbird. the NG endemic of the Red-capped Flowerpecker and the first Geelvink Bay endemic of Biak White-eye (which lacks a white eye ring). Cuckoo-shrikes were represented by the smart Black-browed Triller and the Common Cicadabird (which is a species that eluded me in Australia). A conspicuous and spectacular species that we never reached the range of in Australia, the Eclectus parrot were easy to locate the green males contrasting with the predominantly scarlet females. Another Species not seen in Australia, the wacky Palm Cockatoo flew over, but Iwein told us the origins of this bird on Biak are at best questionable. Having seen all the Australian Fairy-wrens I was able to add a new one to my collection with the stunning Emperor Fairy Wrens, that played hide and seek in dense cover. Rather unexpectedly a mammal was seen here, the normally nocturnal Bandicoot, Echymipera crossed the track. We returned for lunch in Biak, on the way learning the draw dropping news that the person affected by the 'life threatening emergency' that Like referred to in her most recent e-mail was Iwein himself -he was stricken with Cerebral Malaria and had to be evacuated by helicopter from Waigeo -we might not have had a tour at all. At least this means I don't have to twist Jane's arm to take her anti malarials.
After lunch we drove to forest in the west of the island, and birded along the road. By now the combination of 33C heat and 100% humidity reminded me why I would always claim the British climate is one of the world's most pleasant, but as my clothes quickly became wringing wet with sweat we found some birds.
I was very pleased I eventually decided to bring my scope, for the stunning views it gave of gorgeous pigeons such as Spice Imperial Pigeon, and the small but perfectly formed Yellow-bibbed Fruit Dove and Claret-breasted Fruit-dove as they perched high in the canopy. Brown and the rather striking Great Cuckoo Doves perched up in regenerating low forest. Parrots included more Eclectus. as well as Black-capped and Black-winged Lories and Rainbow Lorikeets. The forests were rather quiet, Iwein suggesting that the lack of vocal activity may be due to the unusually wet weather, but we did hear the double note of the Hooded Pitta and the laughing calls of the Biak Paradise Kingfisher, and two of the latter were taped into view, and once located deep in the understory these beautiful birds could be viewed at leisure in the scope. Another Geelvink endemic was the sexually dimorphic Biak Flycatcher, although this species was not as eye-catching as the Golden Monarch, that in plumage rather resembled a New World Oriole. The rather damp conditions must have suppressed raptor activity but a Brahminy Kite flew past, and the Variable Goshawk, here in a rufous morph not seen in Australia. and the NG endemic of Grey-headed Goshawk were found perched.
As darkness began to fall we reached a site for some nocturnal species. and Large-tailed Nightjar was seen in flight, as well as giving its 'chopping wood' calls, but the Papuan Frogmouths calling here refused to show. Iwein made great efforts to find the elusive Biak Scops Owl and at the third site we tried a pair responded to the tape with astonishingly loud croaking calls. but even though they flew across the track we failed to view this species. After little sleep during the flights it had been a rather exhausting day, so J crashed out in the hotel, while I went out in search of food. I would have thought pointing to pictures of dishes in the restaurant, and proffering money would have been simple enough, but it was a considerable time before I was able to return with acceptable fodder.
30th July. As it was raining heavily before dawn we had a lie-in until 05.00 am, before we set out to.explore the forests of eastern Biak. The weather was the same as yesterday; ie generally overcast with light showers, 100% humidity and temperatures in the low thirties. At our first site a trail through forest led to a mound of the Biak Megapode. We thought we had dipped here, but I belatedly discovered J probably saw the bird here. The rest of us contenting ourselves with a line up of 5 Biak Paradise Kingfishers.
As we walked along the road a Long-tailed Buzzard floated across on two occasions, once carrying nesting material. A large rangy raptor, one could appreciate why it might invite confusion with NG Eagle or Doria's Hawk.
Iweins perseverance with the tape finally paid off with views of the scarce and rather shy Biak Monarch flitting around in the mid-story. Unfortunately our chances of seeing the Geelvink Pygmy Parrot were dented by the discovery that two trees that held nesting sites had been felled. The sound of chainsaws provided a less than harmonious background for much of the day. This small scale extraction for local use would probably be insignificant if so much timber had not previously been removed, leaving few mature trees. As we drove along track towards a mangrove area we visited for lunch the skulking Biak Coucal, that had been regularly heard was seen on both sides of the road as two pairs had an obvious verbal dispute. The mangrove area offered a scene of desolation as obviously recent saline intrusion had killed forest trees which littered the area like ghosts. Among the wreckage stalked Great, intermediate Egrets and an impressive Great-billed Heron, with a skulking Striated Heron on a log. White-bellied Sea-eagle, Osprey, Torresian Crow and a lesser Frigate soared overhead, and the first waders with Red-necked Stint and Common Sandpiper. The target bird here was the beach Kingfisher, and after searching three appeared with noisy calls and we could view these striking birds through the scope. We returned to the forest at dusk, to view flights of Parrots going to roost, but we once again we failed to see the Scops Owl, with the most noteworthy sighting being synchronized flashing of fireflies in bush.
31st July. We made an early start for the 6.00 am flight to Jayapura, and after dropping off our luggage at what was memorably the worst hotel I have ever stayed in - at least it had the potential to make camping in the forest an luxurious experience. We quickly escaped from the hotel and headed for the grasslands and scattered patches of woodland around Lake Sentani. Typical open country birds were soon found in a scan with bins such as Pied Bush-chat, Golden-headed Cisticola, Crimson Finch, and the NG endemic of White-shouldered Fairy-wren. Two target birds her were the localized Grand and the Hooded Munias, and both were found fairly easily as they perched high on tall grasses. Hirundines in the shape of Pacific Swallows and Tree Martins hawked insects over the area with Blue-tailed Bee-eaters launching sorties after insects. In rather more marshy areas Lesser Black and Pheasant Coucals flopped in and out of cover and a smart Buff-banded Rail gave a great photo opportunity. Noisy New Guinea Friarbirds were easy to see, but in the morning the Fawn-breasted Bowerbird eluded us. A distant soaring Little (pygmy) Eagle, Whistling Kites at a nest as well as White-bellied Sea-eagle and Brahminy Kites represented the raptor community. Perhaps the most impressive bird of the mornings excursion was a Rufous-bellied Kookaburra calling noisily from a perch high in a tree. One elusive grassland species was only seen briefly after being flushed, the King Quail.
In the afternoon we returned to the same area this time finding the Fawn-breasted Bowerbird with some ease as they hopped around in scattered trees. Impressive Channel Billed Cuckoos, looking rather like large harrier drifted over and a handsome Band-tailed Imperial Pigeon flew over. Noisy Bush Hens managed to hide in minute patches of cover, but one was glimpsed scurrying between two bushes. Other birds seen were Pacific Black Ducks and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike. For the first time since arriving in New Guinea the temperature was really pleasant, with low humidity and a cooling breeze.
1st August. Weather mostly sunny after heavy overnight rain, and marginally less than 100% humidity, at least in the heat of the day. We left our hotel at 5.30 after a surprisingly good breakfast, although given the state of the rooms I shudder to think what the kitchens may have been like.
After 2 hours of driving through the Cyclops mountains and beyond we arrived in a village that. was the starting point for our trek to the camp. The first few km were along what I would have assumed was a disused logging trail which made for easy walking before we found ourselves wandering through stunning primary forest close to a river where thick mud and standing water slowed progress and made every step an effort.
We set off at 8.00 and arrived at the camp at around 2.45. We were without Iwein as he had taken Peter to receive medical help, but Maurice did his duty by helping with bird ID. The camp itself would have pleased Ray Mears - apart from tarpaulins stretched over the sleeping platforms it was entirely made from natural materials in a functional yet aesthetically pleasing way. J and I felt therefore we entered into the spirit of things by making string out of natural fibres to attach our mosquito nets. A variety of birds were seen on the hike - huge Blyth's Hornbills shattered the quiet of the forest with their wing-beats and noisy calls. and I was able to photograph perched birds. Two Rufous-bellied Kookaburra and a rather quieter Brush Cuckoo were photographed, as was a smart Lowland Peltops, with a bill out of proportion to its body and crisp black, white and red plumage. Unbelievably tiny Buff-faced Pygmy parrots provided entertainment as they scuttled along branches, while Double-eyed Fig-parrots flew over.
Pigeons were represented by Great Cuckoo dove, and the exquisite duo of Beautiful and Orange-bellied Fruit-dove. Forest birds included squabbling Long-billed Honeyeater and White-eared Catbird, Tawny Breasted Honeyeater, Meyer's Friarbird, the world's only poisonous bird, the Rusty Pitohui, Grey Crow, Rufous-collared Monarch, and Shining Flycatcher.
In the evening Papuan Frogmouths called close to the camp, but I failed to locate them.
2nd August. The day started at dawn, and ended with an attempt to see night-birds, the long day emphasizing the fact that although West Papua has some of the most fabulous birds on the planet it also offers what is perhaps the most difficult birding on account of the extreme shyness of virtually all the forest birds. In the morning the secretive Blue-black Kingfisher was seen in it habitat of alluvial swamp forest, generally speeding between the trees, but also perched inconspicuously. An Azure Kingfisher on the river was a considerably easier challenge and even offered the chance of a photo. One spectacular species that gave great scope views was the Palm Cockatoo, as did yet another handsome Imperial Pigeon, this time the Purple Tailed. We waited for a considerable time at a display site for the King Bird-of-paradise, but it failed to show. I did however double my tally of BOPS with one of the rather less spectacular species, the Jobi Manucode.
Other birds in the canopy were Variable Pitohui, Little Shrike Thrush and Yellow-faced Myna. Noisy and active White-browed Thicket-fantails proved reasonably easy to tape in for good views. In the afternoon we made the trudge through the glutinous mud of the water-logged swamp forest to the display site of the Lesser Bird of paradise. Iwein said display would start at around 3 pm, and the air gradually filled with the strange vocalisations of the birds. Seeing them was, however another matter although we had glimpses of these breathtaking birds in flight it was over an hour before two males settled on a branch above us an began displaying, each transforming itself into a shimmering mass of plumes in what has to be one of the most incredible sights in the natural world. All too quickly it was over and we trudged back to view Black-capped Lories, Cockatoos and a Papuan Frogmouth skimming across the river. The night excursion failed to produce any sightings of nocturnal birds although 2 Marbled Frogmouths were heard.
3rd August. We were out before dawn to a display site of the Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise. A palm leaf screen was quickly assembled and a scope trained on the branch, but it refused to appear, as did very close calling Marbled Frogmouth. Seeing the NGE of Rufous Babbler was hardly consolation. After breakfast we set off along the river, and we quickly had good views of a male Pale-billed Sicklebill probing around tree trunks, the bird moving with a flock of variable Pitohuis. There was signed agreement with all the local clans for there to be no snaring.in this area, but this was clearly being broken as Iwein was nearly yanked off his feet by a trap. Once one eye was in they seemed easy to spot and we found about 20. They are clearly aimed at pigs, but would be equally capable of catching Cassowaries. Crowned Pigeons and brush turkeys. Maurice and Jacob clearly knew who was responsible and systematically destroyed the traps, saying they would sort it out with him. This was clearly not desperately effective as they and several other strapping lads made no attempt to stop a very angry man from wandering into camp waving a panga and accompanied by a pack of dogs. Among shouting he started slashing at the tent poles and it was left to Like and Iwein, both of whom I felt were in personal danger to calm things down. Our friend’s father was fetched and eventually he came over to give a grovelling apology to all us tourists, and the matter was resolved. The tent poles were quickly restored and we set off for our afternoons excursion as if nothing had happened.
4th August. We set of at 3.00 am to look for nocturnal birds, but once again, although several Papuan and Marbled Frogmouths, and a Barred Owlet Nightjar were heard none could be tracked down. I did however have excellent views of a small forest Wallaby, the White-striped Dorcopsis and briefer views of the Common Echyimpera.
Once again we failed to see the Twelve-wired although the bird was calling close to the site and that set the pattern for the morning, the extreme difficulty of birding in WP emphasized by the fact that entire morning I managed to fasten the bins on just one forest bird, a Rufous-collared Monarch. However a Greater Black Coucal disappeared in a tangle of vines, and twice I had views of the King Bird-of-paradise in flight, although they were female/immature male types.
After collapsing in the pick up point and enjoying a can with the novel name of sweat, which I thought would hardly be successful marketing ploy in the UK we then went to a limestone ridge in forested hills on the foothills of the Cyclops Mountains and here birds appeared relatively easy to view with five Glossy-mantled Manucodes displaying in a bare tree, adopting striking poses and erecting feathers. We also saw Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Blyth's Hornbill, and New Guinea Friar birds.
We arrived back at our Sentani Hotel, thinking its squalor would still offer relief from heat, humidity, chiggers and mud to discover this time we were offered a clean room of an entirely acceptable tourist class hotel standard - an excellent surprise.
5th August. We left for an early flight from Sentani to Manokwari on the Vogelkopf Peninsula. At the airport I was approached by a vendor who offered to sell a horrendous head-dress that contained the plumes of Lesser and several King Bird of Paradise. It is hard to believe any tourist could be stupid and thoughtless enough to buy such a product, but remembering the antics of.my brother in Mongolia I suppose it is possible. After lunch in the Manokwari Hotel, that verged on the swanky we headed off in 4WD to the Arfak Mountains, arriving at the community guest house we were to stay in at 1.30. The road through stunning montane forest certainly required tough vehicles, particularly when we had to cross two fast flowing rivers. All the locals carried their pangas and often bows and arrows. It is a pity they don’t all stick to such traditional methods as airguns are even more destructive and deadly.
We only saw one new bird today, and with plumage that was various shades of dull khaki, it was visually less than spectacular but it was still a highly significant one. At 2.00am we were ensconced in a palm frond hide in front of a truly astonishing creation, the roofed maypole bower of the Vogelkopf Bowerbird. The pictures show the arrangement of materials around the 1m high bower but it was inspection after the session with the bird that revealed the bizarre juxtaposition of items. One wondered how long it had taken the bird to accumulate a huge pile of beetle wing cases. The bird appeared within 10 minutes and over the next three hours he regularly attended his bower. Each area was given attention.in turn. He would stack the fruit into ever higher piles, while some loose straws that marred the scissor cut edge.at the front of the bower seemed to annoy him particularly and he spent a lot of time rearranging these. Loose leaves clearly had.no place in the arrangement and were duly carried off. He would often fly up above the bower to inspect his handiwork, while at other times he clearly felt perfection had been achieved and he perched around the site giving vent to an amazing variety of strange vocalizations. He was still on site when Iwein came to release us, the bird slipping away before Iweins’ arrival, who needless to say never even glimpsed it.
6th August. At dawn a Sooty Owl was calling as we headed up a steep trail through forest to.a palm frond hide that overlooked a patch of bare ground about 4m in diameter; the court of the Western Parotia! Soon after we arrived we could hear the raucous calls of the bird (in fact there were two male Parotias in the area, but we had to wait until 7.0 until an apparently black apparition appeared at the edge of the court. Bins revealed extraordinary nodding plumes, a reflective white blaze on its head, but we only had time for the briefest of admiration as the bird flicked a few leaves from its court but steadfastly refused to come down again, although I had several close range views of.it perched. In the sunshine the iridescent colours of magenta, violet and green revealed themselves.
Before lunch we birded a little way down the trail towards the Vogelkopf Bowerbird hide, and a number of skulking forest species were viewed-Blue-grey Robin, Green-backed Robin, Island Leaf Warbler. Black Fantail, mid-Montane Berrypecker. (which is, of course the first representative I have seen of a family), and Sclater's Whistler. Over lunch I had time to inspect the state of my legs, which thanks to a multitude of chigger infestations have developed a spectacular inflammation and oedema. I just hope they may return to something like normality after a few days in this chigger free zone.
In the afternoon we opted for another session in the Parotia hide, on the way making the disturbing discovery that a White-breasted Fruit-dove had been shot just yards from the side trail to the Parotia hide.
During the monitoring session we had several views of this amazing bird, which arrived at 2.30. although it never came down to the dancing site. There were two birds present, but the only bird that came to the ground was clearing a dancing site 10m from the dancing site. . ‘Our’ bird did at least show some very interesting behavior, which was to clean the branch where females would sit with white flowers. At close range the Parotia was an astonishing sight of constantly changing shape and iridescent colours. During the session we had close views of the diminutive Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot, and Papuan Mountain pigeons flew around, with characteristically noisy wing beats.
During the last hours of daylight it was misty and gloomy as we walked with the rest of the group along the road, seeing Red-collared Myzomela, Vogelkoph Melidictes, Vogelkopf Scrubwren, Montane mouse warbler, Rufous-naped Whistler and Black Monarch - although the light was so bad by now most birds looked black.
7th August. It was raining hard at 4.00 am, the time of our scheduled wake up call to trek to the Magnificent Bird-of-paradise display courts, so we had a lie in to 5.00 am and as soon as the rain eased we started out on a steep ascent through forest to 2000m. where it opened out into interesting if anthropogenic area of heathland with many scented rhododendrons and other flowers, but no views unfortunately, as by now it was completely cloudy and starting to rain. The descent was quicker but at least a proportion of it was done sliding down our backsides in the torrential rain.
The forest was luxuriant with epiphytes and many tree ferns and to me surprisingly pandanus, which I always associate with lowland swamp forest. After drying out and changing into dry clothes we finished the day with roadside birding before the rain resumed.
The Black Sicklebill was giving its staccato 'machine gun burst' and within seconds of playing the tape it appeared behind us, giving several flight views of the amazing tail streamers. It briefly perched and I could have photographed it but I sacrificed this for decent views in the bins.
Metallic Pigeon was seen along the road as we headed out on our trek, with another along the road in the evening. Rufous-sided Honeyeater gave very good views at the top of the trail, being one of the few NG birds that came close to tolerating close observation. Western Smoky Honeyeaters were seen along the road in the evening, a smarter bird than the name suggests with bright yellow bare facial skin. Iwein managed to tape in two skulking forest robins at the top of the ridge, these being ashy and smoky. I saw one bird in the mid canopy that when viewed with bins I could see that although it appeared black, every time it moved I had flashes of intense iridescent colours, making it out as a male Superb Bird of paradise -others were heard calling. The Wattled Brush-turkey was seen, surprisingly in flight as it rocketed away. I would have thought such a species would evade humans by quietly sneaking away. A trio of White-eared Little Bronze cuckoos chased each other in the mid story.
8th August. My oedema had reduced somewhat from a moderate case of elephantiasis, although I had yet to rediscover my ankles.
The morning was clear so we set off at 5.00am to the display-court of the Magnificent Bird-of-paradise at a lower elevation than the village. We were ensconced in the hide just in time as the bird was already calling. The first bird seen was a Green-backed Robin, before the star performer for an all too brief inspection. I was disappointed to see all the pictures I took of this visit were out of focus, and I wondered if my chance had gone. The bird made another brief inspection at the edge of its court, but for the next 2 hours it perched above our heads, noisily calling but out of sight.
However at 9.00 our fortunes changed as in flew two females (or female and immature male), and they were immediately joined by the male, who went into full display with an incredible array of shape changing and flashing of iridescent colours.
The other bird that appeared in front of the hide were a skulking Rusty Mouse Warbler and a pair of exquisite Cinnamon Ground Doves, that as well as foraging also did their relatively low key display the male shaking his wings and calling in front of the not obviously impressed female.
The rest of the group had dipped in the other hide so they went in and we wandered around the area with Maurice, managing to fasten our bins on three gorgeous Chestnut-backed Jewel-babblers creeping over the forest floor-really beautiful skulkers. Yellow-legged Fly robin, capped white-eye, Green Crowned Longbill and White-faced Robin were seen, while efforts with the tape were rewarded with the sight of a White-striped Forest Rail scuttling across a path.
After delivery of the usual excellent lunch in the forest it began to rain heavily and we retreated to camp.
9th August. I had walked through the rain with my camera wrapped in a rain guard that proved to be as effective as a chocolate teapot. When I tried to view the pictures of the Magnificent BOP I made the devastating discovery that the rain cover had failed to protect my camera and it had been destroyed. Ironically if I not purchased the wretched product my camera would have been safe in my backpack.
The day started with a determined attempt to tape in White-striped Forest Rail along the Parotia trail. It took 40 min before there was any response, but then we had very good views of them moving over the forest floor, as times running with amazing speed. The rest of the morning we walked part of the way up the ridge trail. Some very skulking species were taped in such as Lesser Ground Robin and Mountain Mouse Warbler although I missed the Spotted Jewel Babbler. Once again it rained heavily before our departure to Manokwari. and the second of the two rivers was heavily coloured and a challenge to ford but were skillfully managed by our drivers. The views down the valley were of apparently unbroken forest - not a common sight in most of the tropics.
10th August. After a civilized night in our hotel in Manokwari we were delayed in our flight to Sorong because of torrential rain. Looking south from our flightline along the Vogelkopf peninsula gave views of unbroken tropical forest. After lunch in the hotel where I reacquainted myself with Indonesian fish soup, with the heads of victims looking at one accusingly from the bowl, we headed out to nearby areas of secondary and primary lowland forest. The road here proved the thesis that a bad sealed road is worse than a good unsealed one as it was atrocious, the residual tarmac creating mesas and ridges around gigantic potholes.
We finally arrived at a suitable area and enjoyed some relaxed birding with many birds allowing scope views, such as Orange-bellied Fruit-dove, Rufous-bellied. Kookaburra. Yellow-faced Myna, Black-browed Triller, and NG Friarbird. Parrots and Blyth's Hornbills were much in evidence. with several Palm and Sulphur-crested Cockaatoos, Eclectus and Red-flanked lorikeets flying over. A number of Red-bellied Paradise-kingfishers were calling from dense second growth and with considerable effort of searching I was twice able to find the perched bird and watch it calling, a perfectly formed study in scarlet and brilliant blues. While searching for the bird a Rusty-mouse Warbler was seen running along a log.
As dusk approached a stream of several hundred bats must have been emerging from a. roost, and every bat followed the same route flying across the road at full tilt.at the narrowest of gaps on the far side - it seemed inconceivable that they could do so without collision. The final sighting of the day was of a Hook-billed Kingfisher flying across the road.
Returning to Sorong I was amazed to find a well-stocked photographic shop with a 7D in stock, but like most of west Papua its embrace of the modern world did not extend to the use of credit cards, and my credit card sensibly decided that repeated cash withdrawals in Indonesia was suspicious so I was unable to extract the mountain of money needed. Iwein would have lent me the necessary, but simply did not have the cash, so my final hope of fulfilling my. dream of photographing the Wilson's was dashed.
11th August. By 7.00am we were at the dock in Sorong, which seemed to be filled with rusting hulks in various stages of disintegration, but fortunately out craft to take us to the island of Weigeo looked in reassuringly good condition. The harbour was filled with the usual unbelievable amount of plastic rubbish typical of Asian harbours, and indeed we had to stop the boat twice to free plastic from the impeller. A White-bellied Sea-eagle was perched rather incongruously on the head of a giant fish statue at the entrance to the harbour. The crossing was with a sea state of moderate, the seabirds I saw were limited to 5 Lesser Frigates, 3 Black-naped Terns and 2 Lesser-crested Terns.
We entered a deep channel splitting the forested island and travelled down to the river mouth, by which we were to enter our camp, only to discover the river was flooding and we were forced to spend the day (and later night) in a village a little further up the channel. It rained until midday, at which point the weather improved and we walked up a newly created road that ominously is to service a new transmigration settlement. Such schemes have a negligible effect on population pressure in grossly overpopulated Java, but have a considerable negative impact in the remote areas people are transported to.
The view from the road allowed good views through the canopy so a variety of overflying birds could be seen, the most conspicuous being Blyth's Hornbills, and the un-missable Palm Cockatoos, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, and Eclectus Parrots. A Gurney's Eagle was seen twice, once being mobbed by Torresian Crows and Long-tailed Buzzard gave a great display of soaring. Other birds seen on this and a walk later in the afternoon included Green-crowned Longbill, Glossy mantled Manucode, Claret-breasted Fruit doves, Pinon Imperial Pigeons, Sacred Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, and Hooded Butcherbird. In the evening Crested Tree-swifts wheeled around, uttering shrill wailing calls, and were later replaced by Large-tailed Nightjars around the village.
12th August. It started raining at 5.30 am and heavy rain continued for the next five hours as we huddled in the community shelter in the village. Surprisingly Large tailed nightjars and Moustached Treeswifts continued to fly in the downpour. In spite of the rain the level of the river to the camp had dropped sufficiently to allow us to access the camp with the help of a somewhat unstable canoe from the village. As we entered the river mouth Grey-tailed Tattler and Common Sandpiper represented the waders, there were also a pair of Radjah Shelducks and a Little Egret.
Once we had settled in the rain more or less ceased and the sun did its best to dry out the morass around the shelters -fortunately these were over well drained platforms of gravel.
Around the river Azure Kingfisher was easy to see, and a dark phase Reef Egret flew upstream. Rather more difficult to track down were any of several calling Yellow-billed Kingfishers. but after one was glimpsed in flight a calling bird was located perched quite inconspicuously in the canopy. Other birds seen here were a pair of beautiful Fruit Doves and a neat Puff-backed Meliphaga. Later in the afternoon we climbed to the top of a steep limestone ridge where the display tree of the Red Bird-of-paradise was located. The birds were vocalizing as we arrived, and after a few glimpses of them in flight one was seen as a shimmering mass of plumes in the canopy. Another arriving bird gave a stunning view at eye level, showing its magnificent red, yellow and green plumage, and ludicrously long spiral tail wires. Best of all two males were seen together on one branch giving a joint display. With each call they would leap sideways together, then after perhaps 6 dazzling leaps they would freeze with another call.
After this hike it was a luxury to wash off mud, sweat, and as many as yet un -attached chiggers as possible. In the evening we heard Marbled Frogmouth and Red-necked Crake, but only managed to find two snakes, one an expertly arboreal Brown Tree Snake, the other an elapid, with a darker head and pale tan body, and presumably venomous.
13th August. In the entire morning I saw only one bird, but it was a rather significant one. At 05.45 we climbed a steep trail to a hide overlooking the display court of the Wilson's Bird-of-paradise. As light slowly appeared we could hear calls of Red bellied Pitta, Yellow-billed Kingfisher. Marbled Frogmouth, and Red Bird-of-paradise before we heard the ringing calls of the Wilson's and the star performer flew into his court. In the half light at 6.30 the brilliant colours seemed almost luminous as he flew about the court, removing leaves and scrutinizing the area. He was then gone in a flash, but reappeared and put in a longer performance of court improvement at 7.30. The best bird in the world? Just maybe! The Wilsons did not appear again, although we remained in the hide until 11.00, but regularly called around the area.
Relaxing around the river at midday saw Little Pied Cormorant, Radjah Shelduck and both phases of Reef Egret. At 1.00 only B and I were prepared to contemplate a long hike along a ridge above the camp. As we climbed up a dry valley four large grey birds flushed noisily in different directions and one was seen well flying through the trees, looking like a grey Capercallie, the Western Crowned Pigeon. Further on from the top of the ridge we could view one at eye level but perched high in a tree below us. The legs were very long, an adaptation for the terrestrial habits of this species. We flushed a rufous bird that flew off between the trees and whose identity proved obscure until we found a Marbled Frogmouth which gave great views.
As we slowly hiked back other birds seen included several Red Bird-of-paradise, Golden and Spot-winged Monarch, Black-capped Lory, Blyth's Hornbills, Rusty Pitohui, Little Shrike-thrush and Pale-billed Scrubwren. As we approached the river we found the small but perfectly formed Variable Dwarf Kingfisher.
Once dark we spotlighted Large-tailed nightjar, and a very obliging Marbled Frogmouth, this time a grey phase bird.
14th August. Torrential rain for the first few hours of daylight meant a visit to the Wilson's hide was abandoned. Once it stopped raining it was apparent some fruiting trees close to the camp had attracted quite a lot of birds and the rather magnificent Wompoo Fruit Doves with rich carmine underparts were viewed at close range, as well as Beautiful Fruit doves, Glossy mantled Manucodes, NG friarbirds, and New Guinea Bronzewing. Also here, if not frugivorous, were Rufous-bellied Kookaburra. and Green-backed Gerygone. Further along this short loop trail a splendid Red-bellied Pitta bounced into view, and it proved subsequently rather easy to locate, being seen several times at close range along this path.
In the afternoon a longer hike produced very little, indeed the only birds seen were Drongos but also a smart singing Frilled Monarch.
Just after our return to camp torrential rain led to a flood in the river - from a safe distance it was quite impressive to see the water level rise five feet in as many minutes as a chocolate torrent came down. M and G had spent a total of 10 hours in the Wilson's hide so we were heartily relieved for them that the bird finally appeared before the rain started. Two mammals were seen at dusk, one probably a Common Echyimpera, the other was dark brown and appeared tail-less as it scuttled across the path.
At night we did a spotlight walk along part of the long loop, that was not without interest. An obliging rodent gave very close views and this animal looked exactly like an Australian White-tailed rat except this species is not recorded for Weigeo.
A roosting Common Paradise Kingfisher was found, the cobalt and sky blue upper-parts almost fluorescent in the torchlight, but best of all a Green Tree Python was found it its strike position just above the forest floor. Perhaps the most beautiful snake I have ever seen. Otherwise we saw a small Elapid snake, various crickets including a very large terrestrial species, and in the stream a large eel and various sleeping fish.
15th August. Dry for most of the day. I was the sole person opting for a final homage at the court of the Wilson' Bird-of -Paradise, and 6.00 am found me back in the hide. The bird started calling at 6.20 and appeared briefly above the court, but I did not see him again until 7.00 when he came to the ground on four occasions, tossing aside leaves and calling, showing the bright lemon yellow gape. The only other bird seen was a long-billed Honeyeater, but several Common Paradise Kingfishers were calling around the hide.
We left the camp and travelled down the river estuary in the boat, becoming temporarily stranded on a shingle bank until the tide floated us off. Birds seen include Ospreys, Brahminy Kites, Radjah Shelduck, Grey-tailed Tattlers and a Whimbrel.
We then travelled to Wei, a small (1 km2) island in the Dampier Strait. J and I decide to forgo birding in favour of snorkelling and although the beach by the landing stage is apparently the worst place on the island it was still fairly breathtaking with diverse and impressive coral formations and a tremendous diversity of fish (none large) that included., Squirrelfish sp, Goatfish sp, Triangular and Chevroned Butterfly-fish, Moorish Idol, Black-belly Picasso Trigger-fish as well as colourful invertebrate life like Giant Clams.
I did a little birding after this and was pleased to find Dusky Megapode with relative ease, seeing two birds close to a mound, as well as Rufous Fantail, Island Whistler, Lemon-bellied White-eye, Variable Goshawk, Beach Kingfisher, Olive Honeyeater and Varied Honeyeater, so I thought I had the best of both worlds.
On the sea crossing we saw c.50 Lesser Frigatebirds, a few Lesser Crested and rather more Crested Terns and a single Brown Booby. There was quite a shocking amount of plastic refuse in the sea, considering the remoteness of the area. (one can hardly imagine what the sea of Java must be like), and twice we had to stop and clear the impeller before we made it back to Sorong.
I hugely enjoyed this trip, while although Jane found it very tough at times as soon as we got back conceded it had been a memorable trip with some fantastic wildlife encounters. The birding was very hard work indeed, even with Iwein’s tapes and expertise, and the birds were definitely the shyest I have encountered anywhere. This must limit the number of species seen, simply because one is much less likely to blunder across one species while looking for something else, and many birds must simply melt away from even a small group before we even got close enough to glimpse them. The biggest disappointment was the destruction of my Canon 7D and consequently not being able to take any photos on Weigeo. In spite of what I was told by the salesman the Canon 7D is not ‘ more or less weatherproof’, even when wrapped in a rainguard!
If anyone is able to e-mail me images of Wilson’s Bird of paradise, Red-bellied Pitta, Long-tailed Buzzard, Wompoo Fruit-Dove and Beautiful Fruit-Dove, which were the birds I could have got decent images of, had I had a camera, I would be eternally grateful. www.flickr.com/photos/neiljulianthomas/sets
Dwarf Cassowary Casuarius bennetti. One was seen briefly by some as we walked back in the rain in the Arfak Mountains on 7/8 – sadly not by me.
Wattled Brush Turkey Aepypodius arfakianus. NGE This species was heard calling as we sat in the Parotia hide on 6/8, and as we headed up the ridge trail one was seen in flight. B and P saw one from the Parotia hide.
Brown-collared Talegalla Talegalla jobiensis WPE. This species was obviously fairly common in the lowland forest near Sentani, to judge by the number of calling birds, but they remained elusive. My experience of Brush Turkeys in Australia, where they are picnic place nuisances is clearly of no help in WP.
Dusky Megapode Megapodius freycinet. Two were found with relative ease on Wei, close to an obviously active mound. Others were heard giving their strange wailing calls.
Blue-breasted Quail Coturnix chinensis. A neat little game-bird, one was flushed from grasslands at Lake Sentani.
Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa. A pair was seen in flight near Lake Sentani.
Radjah Shelduck Tadorna radjah. A pair was regularly seen around the river near the camp on Weigeo.
Blyth's Hornbill Aceros plicatus. The only hornbill in NG, and a rather spectacular species, they were seen daily in the northern lowlands, near Sorong, and on Weigeo. Overflying birds would always draw attention to themselves with their incredibly loud wingbeats, and I also had really good scope views of perched birds. Up to 6 at least glimpsed daily.
Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis. Fairly characteristic species of open areas and along roads, seen daily (up to 5) on Biak , Lake Sentani and in the northern lowlands.
Azure Kingfisher Alcedo azurea. One was seen along the river by the camp in the northern lowlands, fishing with a high degree of success and giving easier photo opportunities than most NG kingfishers. A few birds were also seen on Weigeo.
Variable dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx lepidus. An inconspicuous but not shy inhabitant of forested streams, one was seen near the camp on Weigeo.
Rufous-bellied Kookaburra Dacelo gaudichaud. This was a fairly conspicuous species with loud calls and a habit of perching in the open, and birds were seen at Lake Sentani, the northern lowlqnds. Sorong and on Weigeo. NGE.
Blue-black Kingfisher Todiramphus nigricyaneus. A handsome but secretive denizen of lowland swamp forest, two birds were taped in near the camp in the northern lowlands. They were mostly seen in flight, but we did track down perched birds. NGE.
Beach Kingfisher Todiramphus saurophaga. A conspicuous and noisy species in its mangrove habitat, four birds were seen on Biak, at times all perched together in one dead tree. One bird was seen on Wei.
Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus. This reminder of Australia was seen daily in small numbers on Biak, in the northern lowlands and also on Weigeo.
Hook-billed Kingfisher Melidora macrorrhina. This rather bizarre NG endemic was heard calling on one side of the road in the Sarong lowlwnds, and I was fortunate enough to e it fly up to a tree on the other side, where it resumed calling. One was seen by others on Weigeo.
Yellow-billed Kingfisher Syma torotoro. This forest species was frequently heard in the northern lowlands, at Sarong, and on Weigeo, but it took a lot of searching before one was located high in the canopy near the camp on Weigeo.
Common Paradise Kingfisher Tanysiptera galatea. This species was common on Weigeo, to judge by the number of calling birds, but the only one actually seen was a roosting bird found with the spotlight.
Biak Paradise Kingfisher Tanysiptera (galatea) riedelli. The paradise kingfishers hardly flaunt their beauty with their habit of perching quietly in dense forest, but several of this species were seen on Biak including five together at the Biak Megapode site.WPE.
Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher Tanysiptera nympha. I twice managed to find calling birds in riverine forest in the Sarong lowlands, a brilliant combination of vermilion, cobalt, pale blue and white.NGE.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops phillipinus. Some four birds were seen launching sorties from bushes in the grasslands at Lake Sentani.
Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus. This species was common in open areas and along forest edges on Biak, with c20 seen daily, a few birds seen near Lake Sentani.
Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus. The rising manic calls were heard more often than the bird was seen, but still regularly seen on Biak and also in the northern lowlands.
White-eared Bronze-cuckoo Chrysococcyx meyeri. A neat and tiny cuckoo, a few birds were seen together along the road in the Arfak Mountains.NGE.
Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae. We never saw this impressive and unusual bird in Australia, so we were pleased to see three flying over grassland and scrub at Lake Sentani.
Greater Black Coucal Centropus menbeki. The deep booming calls of thos species were regularly heard in the forests of the northern lowlands, including at night, but just one was seen, and it quickly disappeared into cover.NGE.
Pheasant Coucal. Centropus phasianus. This large coucal of grassland and scrub was reasonably easy to see in grassland and around forest edge at Lake Sentani.
Lesser Black Coucal Centropus bernsteini. Another open country coucal, birds were seen sitting up on scattered bushe sin grasslands at Lake Sentani.
Biak Coucal Centropus chalybeus. This large coucal is clearly a retiring species, although it was often heard calling from thick scrub. Eventually one was seen from the car - two groups were clearly having a territorial dispute and they briefly appeared as they called noisily.WPE
Black-winged Lory Eos cyanogenis. A handsome black and red parrot, this species was fairly common on Biak, with 10-20 seen both days.WPE.
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus. Small screeching parties were regularly seen on Biak, in the northern lowlands and on Weigeo.
Black-capped Lory Lorius lory. Another smart black and red species with golden under-wings, it would appear to be quite versatile in habitat choice, as it was seen in small numbers (1-5 daily) in all locations visited.NGE.
Red-flanked Lorikeet. Charmosyna placenta. Three were seen in flight in the Sorong lowlands. NGE.
Palm Cockatoo Probosciger aterrimus. We never went to the range of this rather spectacular parrot in Australia so it was nice to catch up with it. One was seen on Biak, but was considered to be an escape. Two were seen in the northern lowlands, one giving scope views of the massive bill and ridiculous crest, while 1-4 were seen daily on Weigeo.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua gaylerita. This species is heavily persecuted for the pet trade, but still reasonably common, with 5 birds seen on Biak, one in the northern lowlands, and it was quite common on Weigeo with up to 20 seen daily.
Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrot Micropsitta pusio. This minute species gave good views as they worked along branches during the trek to the camp in the northern lowlands, and about 4 were seen in the area.NGE.
Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrot Micropsitta bruijnii. One was seen from the Parotia hide in the Arfak Mountains on 6th August.
Double-eyed Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diopthalma. Two were seen in flight around our drop off point in the northern lowlands.
Red-cheeked Parrot Geoffroyus geoffroyi. One quickly learnt to recognise this species with its high pitched calls and erratic flight, birds were seen on Biak, in the Sorong lowlands and it was most common on Weigeo, with up to 10 seen daily.
Eclectus Parrot Eclectus roratus. Another species we did not see in Australia, this noisy and rather spectacular species was quite common and easy to see on Biak, around Sorong and on Weigeo. This species shows very strong dimorphism, with black and red females and bright green males.
Moluccan King-Parrot Alisterus amboiensis. Two pairs were seen during the trek to the ridge in the Arfak Mountains, and another pair was seen on Weigeo.
Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta. This bat like species forages at low level, sometimes just cm above the ground along forest edges. It was common on Biak and on Weigeo.
Uniform Swiftlet Aerodramus vanikorensis. This species was as common as the preceding species and seen in similar locations but foraged in the airspace above forests.
Moustached Treeswift Hemiprocne mystacea. A super bird, whose mechanical wing action gives it a slightly unreal appearance, birds were seen in the mangrove areas of Biak, and around the village on Weigeo. They seemed to be somewhat crepuscular.
Sooty Owl Tyto tenebricosa. I searched for this species in Australia, but never found it and failed to rectify this in NG - a calling bird was heard near the village in the Arfak Mountains but we failed to find it with the spotlight.
Beccari's Scops Owl Otus (magicus) beccarii. This species is described as rarely seen, and certainly unseen by us, for although we had birds giving their croaking calls on both sides of the road on Biak they could not be spotlighted.WPE.
Barred Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles bennettii. Heard calling only near the camp in the northern lowlands.NGE.
Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis. This species was heard on Biak, and regularly around the camp in the northern lowlands, where one bird was seen flying across the river at dusk.
Marbled Frogmouth Podargus ocellatus. This species was regularly heard giving its whistled trills and moaning calls around the camp.in the northern lowlands, but was not seen, but a rufous bird was found in the daytime on Weigeo, and the same night a grey phase bird was spotlighted, both giving excellent close views.
Papuan Nightjar Eurostopodus papuensis. One example was seen flying around a clearing near the camp in the northern lowlands. NGE.
Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus. This species must have a wide world range, as I had previously seen it in Thailand and Australia, it was seen and heard in the evenings around clearings on Biak and Weigeo.
Metallic Pigeon Columba vitiensis. Single birds were seen on successive days along the road in the Arfak Mountains.
Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia amboinensis. A fairly common species along forest edges on Biak, with up to 6 seen daily with others seen in the Arfak mountains and near Sorong.
Great Cuckoo-Dove Reinwardtoena reinwardtii. An easy to identify species with its white head, and slow, almost languid wing-beats single birds were seen daily on Biak and in the northern lowlands.
Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica. A species with a very wide distribution, I had seen it in India and Australia. One was seen on Biak.
New Guinea Bronzewing Henicophaps albifrons. One was seen around the fruiting trees near the camp on Weigeo, that attracted a range of frugivorous species.NGE.
Cinnamon Ground Dove Gallicolumba rufigula. A really exquisite forest floor pigeon, two wandered around the court of the magnificent Bird-of-paradise the male calling and quivering his wings in courtship display to an apparently unimpressed female.NGE.
Wompoo Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus magnificus.. A large and brilliantly coloured species that I had seen in Australia, two were seen around the fruiting trees at the camp on Weigeo.
Coroneted Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus coronulatus. There is a wide diversity of beautifully coloured fruit doves in NG. This species was seen in second growth as we trekked to the camp in the Northern lowlands.NGE.
Beautiful Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus pulchellus. This species was seen as we trekked to our camp in the northern lowlands and at the fruiting trees on Weigeo. They were relatively tame for New Guinea birds and could be viewed with the scope. Four birds were seen at both locations. NGE.
Yellow-bibbed Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus solomonensis. Three birds were seen on Biak.
Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus viridis. Three birds were seen on Biak, while on Weigeo we could see the odd bird in a large tree with an apparently open canopy, yet eventually 40+ flew out.
Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus lozonus. The final example of this assortment of little gems seen, three were seen in the northern lowlands, and 5 in the Sarong lowlands.NGE.
Spice Imperial Pigeon Ducula myria. All the Imperial Pigeons are beautiful birds with their contrastingly marked plumage. This bird was seen on Biak, with 5-8 daily and some could be viewed with the scope.WPE.
Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon Ducula rufigaster. Just one was seen near the camp in the northern lowlands. NGE.
Banded Imperial Pigeon Ducula zoeae. One bird was seen in flight at Lake Sentani. NGE.
Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor. This widespread species was seen on Biak, with 6 birds perched together.
Papuan Mountain Pigeon Gymnophaps albertisii. This species was seen daily in the Arfak Mountains, with 3 -15 seen daily. It was easy to identify in flight because of its nosy wing-beats.
Pinon Imperial Pigeon Ducula pinon. This species was the most regularly seen Imperial Pigeon, typically flying over the forest canopy on rather broad wings. It was seen daily in the northern lowlands and on Weigeo, with 1-10 birds daily. NGE.
Western Crowned Pigeon Goura cristata. Having missed the Victoria's in the northern lowlands it was a relief to catch up with at least one of these fantastic species. Initially we flushed four birds along the long loop on Weigeo. In flight they looked like pale Capercaillies! We then found one perched high in a tree but as it was on a slope we could view it at eye level, noting very long legs, as befits their terrestrial habits.WPE.
White-striped Forest-Rail Rallina leucospila. A neatly marked but elusive species, one was seen briefly scuttling across a path near the Magnificent BOP site on 8th August while the next day a concerted effort was made to tape out birds along the Parotia trail. It was a full 45 min before there was any vocal response, but eventually we had very good views of this WPE, even though they were difficult to follow as they ran with such speed through the forest floor vegetation.
Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis. Two were seen around Lake Sentani, including a photogenic bird that had ventured into the open.
Rufous-tailed Bush-hen Amaurornis (olivaceous) moluccanus. A number were heard calling from small patches of cover at Lake Sentani, but it took a lot of waiting before one was glimpsed running between bushes.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus. One was seen at the river mouth on Weigeo.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. The trip was hardly noteworthy for waders, but one of this species was seen on Weigeo, and another amongst mangroves on Biak.
Red-necked Stint Calidris.ruficollis. A small flock of 8birds were seen among the mangroves on Biak.
Grey-tailed Tattler Heterosceles brevipes.A total of four birds were seen along the shingle banks at the river mouth on Weigeo.
Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis. It certainly was not easy to identify terns as we hurtled out to Weigeo on the fast launch, but at least two examples of this species were identified on the outward and return journeys.
Great-crested Tern Sterna bergii. On the return journey from Weigeo this species appeared rather more numerous than Lesser Crested with about 15 birds seen.
Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana. A group of three examples of this small and very pale tern were seen on the boat ride out to Weigeo.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus. Two examples of this cosmopolitan species were seen over the mangroves on Biak, and three birds were seen soaring over Weigeo.
Pacific.Baza Aviceda subcristata. Two birds were seen perched and in flight on Biak.
Long-tailed Buzzard Henicopernis longicauda. Two examples of this large heavily barred raptor were seen on Biak as they flew across the road, one was carrying nesting material, while we had nice close views of a soaring bird on Biak. NGE.
Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus. A pair was attending a nest near Lake Sentani.
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus. A typical species of forested shorelines and islands, birds were seen on Biak, Weigeo, Wei, and along rivers in the northern lowlands.
White-bellied Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus lecogaster. Two were seen soaring along coastlines on Biak, and another at Lake Sentani.
Variable Goshawk Accipiter (novaehollandiae) hiogaster. Four birds were seen on Biak, and they proved relatively approachable, and birds were also seen near Sorong and on Wei. All were of a rufous bellied phase that does not occur in Australia.
Grey-headed Goshawk Accipiter poliocephalus. This NG endemic is more of a forest bird than Variable Goshawk. A total of three were seen, all on Biak.
Gurney's Eagle Aquila gurneyi. We had two sightings of probably the same bird on Weigeo, as we walked along the new road from the village one drifted over, being mobbed by Torresian Crows.
Little Eagle Hieraeetus morphnoides. This species has now being reclassified as an Aquila species, and rechristened as the NG Pygmy Eagle, birds were seen soaring near Lake Sentani and as we trekked back from the northern lowlands camp.
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster. A single bird was seen in the area with most seabird activity on the return journey from Weigeo.
Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos. One flew down the river past the camp on Weigeo.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta. One was seen near the river mouth on Weigeo.
Pacific Reef-Egret Egretta sacra. Both dark and white phase birds were seen around the river mouth on Weigeo, where up to 5 birds were present.
Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana. One example was seen stalking the mudflats amongst mangroves on Biak. It was a surprisingly difficult bird to spot, the colour of its plumage matching that of the mud almost precisely.
Great Egret Casmerodius albus. About 100 examples of this cosmopolitan species were seen on Biak.
Cattle Egret Bulbulcus ibis. A few birds seen around Sorong airport.
Striated Heron Butorides striatus. Birds were seen in the mangrove areas on Biak, and around the river mouth on Weigeo.
Rufous-night Heron Nycticorax caledonicus. Just one example of this handsome heron was seen in flight in the mangrove area on Biak.
Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel. One was specifically identified on Biak. as the axillary spurs were visible. Numbers of other frigatebirds were seen on the journeys to and from Weigeo including a circling flock of 50 are likely to be all of this species.
Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida. The slurred double note of this species was heard regularly on Biak. and also around Sorong but the bird was not seen.
Red-bellied Pitta Pitta erythrogaster. This species was heard calling around the camp in the northern lowlands, and on Weigeo. A bird that frequented the short loop trail from the camp proved to be quite obliging as it foraged at the edge of the path and a quiet approach would nearly always be rewarded with the sight of this brilliantly coloured bird bouncing in front of one.
Papuan Treecreeper Cormobates placens. One was seen working up branches in the Arfak Mountains.NGE.
White-eared Catbird. Alluroedus buccoides. One bird was seen as we trekked to the camp in the northen lowlands, and another was seen visiting the fruiting trees on Weigeo. NGE.
Vogelkopf Bowerbird Amblyornis inornatus. I was very keen to see this bird attending his roofed maypole bower, that must be the most extraordinary construction made by any bird. The bird was watched from a hide adjusting the position of the fruits in the various complex colour coordinated piles and carefully trimming the sticks along the entrance to the bower so that the 'gable' was perfectly flush. He had taken full advantage of the availability of human rubbish such as orange plastic, which must presumably be easier to obtain than the large pile of beetle wing cases. Apart from the observations at the hide, birds were seen daily in the forests of the Arfak Mountains. WPE.
Fawn-breasted Bowerbird Chlamydera cerviniventris. Two examples of this Bowerbird of open country with scattered bushes were seen in the grasslands around Lake Sentani.
White-shouldered Fairywren Malurus alboscapulatus. Several birds were seen in the grasslands around Lake Sentani.NGE.
Emperor Fairywren Malurus cyanocephalus. This brilliantly coloured little gem was rather skulking in dense roadside second growth, but pairs were seen on both days on Biak.NGE.
Dusky Myzomela Myzomela.obscura. A pair was seen during the first mornings birding on Biak.
Red-collared Myzomela Myzomela rosenbergii. Rather smarter than the preceding species and a.NG endemic to boot, one was watched visiting a flowering tree in the Arfak Mountains.
Tawny Straightbill Timellopsis griseigula. One bird seen in a mixed species flock in the northern lowlands.NGE.
Long-billed Honeyeater Melilestes megarhynchus. Some five were seen as we trekked to out camp in the northern lowlands, with birds vigorously chasing each other. One bird was seen outside the hide on Weigeo Island .NGE.
Olive Honeyeater Lichmera argentauris. A few birds were seen on the island atoll of Wei.
Puff-backed Honeyeater Meliphaga aruensis. A few birds were seen working through the mid canopy near the camp on Weigeo. NGE.
Varied Honeyeater Lichenostomus (virescens) versicolor. A few birds were seen on the atoll of Wei, this being the larger of the two honeyeater species present. NGE.
Tawny-breasted Honeyeater Xanthotis flaviventer. A few birds were seen in the forest canopy of the northern lowlands on 1st and 2nd August.
Meyer's Friarbird Philemon meyeri. Four birds were heard calling and seen as we trekked to the camp in the northern lowlands on 1st August. NGE.
New Guinea Friarbird Philemon (buceroides) novaeguineae. This was a widespread and rather obvious species in the lowlands with its loud distinctive calls. Birds were seen at Lake Sentani, in the northern lowlands and on Weigeo. They would actively chase other frugivorous species away from food sources.
Rufous-sided Honeyeater Ptiloprora erythropleura. One.was seen at the top of the ridge we climbed to at 2000m in the Arfak Mountains. By West Papuan standards a.relatively confiding.bird. WPE.
Vogelkopf Melidictes Melidictes leucostephes. The strident calls of this species were a characteristic forest sound in the Arfak Mountains, and birds were seen during our roadside birding excursions.at the end of the day. WPE.
Western Smoky Honeyeater Melipotes gymnops. Quite an easy honeyeater to identify with bright yellow facial skin, one was seen in the Arfak Mountains on the 7th August. WPE.
Rusty Mouse Warbler Crateroscalia murina. As the name suggests this species was difficult to observe as it creeps around in low cover, but one was seen from the Magnificent. BOP hide. and another on the forest floor on the same day. NGE.
Mountain Mouse Warbler Crateroscalia robusta. This was another furtive inhabitant of forest understory, but two birds were seen near the ridge at 1800m in the Arfak Mountains. NGE.
Perplexing.Scrubwren Sericornis (beccarii) virgatus. A pair was seen in the forest canopy in the Arfak Mountains on 9/8. NGE.
Vogelkopf Scrubwren Sericornis rufescens. Small numbers were seen while birding along the road in the Arfak Mountains. WPE.
Pale-billed Scrubwren Sericornis.spilodera. A few birds were seen around the camp on Weigeo. NGE.
Mountain Gerygone Gerygone cinerea. A pair identified in the Arfak Mountains on 7/8. NGE.
Yellow-bellied Gerygone Gerygone chrysogaster. A few birds were seen daily during our stay in the northern lowlands. NGE.
Lesser Ground-robin Amalocichla incerta. In Australia the various robin species might be unobtrusive, but they are certainly not shy, but this was hardly the case in West Papua, and getting views of any of them took effort and patience. One example of this species was seen hopping over the forest floor in the Arfak mountains. NGE.
Yellow-legged Flyrobin Microaca griseoceps. Two birds were seen near the Magnificent BOP site in the Arfak Mountains.
White-faced Robin Tregallasia leucops. One example of this species was persuaded to briefly show itself with the help of the tape in the Arfak Mountains.on 8/8.
Smoky Robin Peneothello cryptoleucos. Two birds responded to the tape and showed briefly at 1900m in the Arfak Mountains. WPE.
Blue-grey Robin Penothello cyanus. Yet another success for the tape as this skulker gave brief views in the Arfak Mountains, at a rather lower altitude than Smoky Robin. NGE.
Ashy Robin Heteromyias albispecularis. Birds were taped out on two occasions in the Arfak Mountains.
Green-backed Robin Pachycephalopsis hattamensis. This would probably have been the only robin seen without the aid of tape luring, and 1-2 birds were seen most days in the Arfak Mountains. NGE.
Rufous Babbler Pomatostomus isidorei. A group of four were seen during our unsuccessful stakeout for the Twelve-wired in the northern lowlands. NGE.
Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler Ptilorrhoa castanonota. Three examples of these beautiful birds were seen running over the forest floor in the Arfak Mountains. This was actually the first time Iwein had recorded this species here.
Spotted Jewel Babbler Ptilorrhoa lecosticta. This species was more expected in the Arfak Mountains, and it was reassuring to find I could hear the high pitched call, but I did not see the bird as others watched it run up a path. NGE
Rufous-naped Whistler Aleadryas rufinucha. One example of this NG endemic was seen in the forest canopy in the Arfak Mountains on 6/8..
Island Whistler Pachycephala phalonotus. This bird was easy to locate along the trail from the village on Wai atoll and about 3 birds were seen.
Sclater's Whistler Pachycephala soror. One or two examples of this neat NG endemic were seen daily during our stay in the Arfak Mountains.
Regent Whistler Pachycephala schlegelii. Two examples of this NG endemic were seen.in the Arfak Mountains on 7/8.
Little.Shrike-thrush Colluricincla.megaryncha. Two examples of this unobtrusive species were seen in the forest mid-story in the northern lowlands on 2/8.
Variable Pitohui Pitohui kirhocephalus. These birds moved around.in rather noisy flocks that were always worth scrutinizing in case other species were associating with them, and parties were encountered most days in the northern lowlands. NGE.
Rusty Pitohui Pitohui ferrugineus. Notable as the world’s only poisonous bird, this species was quite common in the mid story of the forests of the northern lowlands and on Weigeo. They were noisy but shy and often heard calling at night. NGE.
Black Pitohui Pitohui nigrescens. This species was seen in the Arfak Mountains and behaved similarly to the Rusty Pitohuis, with.3-5 birds seen when we encountered flocks. NGE.
Brown-headed Crow Corvus fuscicapilla. This species is more of a forest bird than Torresian Crow, and very distinctive with its massive curved bill. A pair was seen as we trekked back from the camp in the northern lowlands and birds were seen on two occasions around the camp on Weigeo. WPE.
Grey Crow Corvus tristris. Three birds were seen flying over the forest canopy on 1/8 as we trekked to.the.camp in the northern lowlands. NGE.
Torresian Crow. Corvus orru. Small numbers were seen most days on Biak and Weigeo.
Glossy-mantled Manucode Manucodia atra. Seeing the Birds of paradise must be the ultimate attraction for birders to visit New Guinea and I was desperate to improve on my species list of one (Victoria's Riflebird). This species forms pair bonds and does not show the sexual dimorphism and outrageous displays of some other species, but still an elegant bird when it fluffs up its rump and throws back the head in display, as well as giving slow display flights. NGE.
Jobi Manucode Manucodia jobiensis. Only one was seen, in the forests of the northern lowlands. NGE.
Black Sicklebill Epimachus fastuosus. When we had climbed to 1900m in the Arfak Mountains we heard birds giving the loud double call, and on playing the tape one quickly appeared just behind us ,The bird circled us several times, an astonishing sight in flight with its long trailing tail, and was also seen perched briefly. NGE.
Pale-billed Sicklebill Epinachus bruuijnii. Around the camp in the northern lowlands this bird was following a flock of Rusty Pitohuis, and occasionally calling. After much searching we had very good views of a male probing the rotten wood around shattered branches. NGE.
Superb Bird of Paradise Lophorina superba. This species was heard calling quite regularly in the Arfak Mountains. When I fastened my bins on a fairly small apparently black bird I could see flashes of brilliant iridescent blues and greens every time it moved - I can't imagine this was anything other than a male Superb.NGE.
Western Parotia Parotia sefilata. This bird was a good example of how much more magnificent and even slightly unreal the male birds of paradise appear when seen in the field as opposed to illustrations. When the male Parotia appeared in front of the hide in the half light of dawn the first shock was how large it was, then one marveled how the birds shape and colour changed every time it moved. It was a pity we were not able to witness the courtship dance, but we had several views of this bird calling around the court and cleaning the females perch with white flowers, while we could view the other male at a court a few metres away clearing leaves in preparation for his dance. Female/immature males were seen foraging high in the canopy on two occasions. WPE.
Magnificent Bird of Paradise Cicinnurus magnificus. We settled into one of two hides overlooking the display courts of.th species, and at 6.30 the male began calling, then flew in for a brief inspection of his court, before quickly departing. However at 9.00 we were treated to full display as two females flew in, closely followed by the male, who adopted various fantastic poses below the females, erecting his yellow neck ruff, and extending his gorget, all the while the tail wires wobbling seemingly out of control. The birds then departed but then subsequently obliged with another performance for the US contingent, who had seen nothing at the other hide. NGE.
Wilson's Bird of Paradise Cicinnurus respublica. The effort of getting to the hide in the dark and of fending off legions of mosquitoes were instantly forgotten when the Wilson' appeared in front of the hide at 6.20 am. In the half-light the brilliant and intense colours seemed almost luminous, as it tossed leaves aside and scrutinized its court. We had a repeat performance at.7.30, but after that it remained.in the area calling occasionally, but did not come to the court again. Two days later I had a repeat performance with rather more prolonged views between 7.00 and 7.30. Is it the 'best bird in the world'? Certainly if I had been able to photograph it it would be my screen saver by now! WPE.
King Bird of Paradise Cicinnurus regius. This species was frequently heard calling in the northern lowlands, often in the company of Pitohuis and.Honeyeaters, but was not seen well. Birds were only seen in flight and none.were adult males. NGE.
Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise Seleuciis melanoleuca. We made two attempts to view this species displaying at dawn but were unsuccessful, although the male bird called several times very close to its display tree. NGE.
Red Bird of Paradise Paradisaea rubra. We visited the display tree of this species in the late afternoon on Weigeo. The site was in some real forest giants on top of a ridge. Initially birds were calling but remained elusive, but then one appeared overhead and displayed alone. I had a superb eye level view of a very close bird, then for the finale two males performed an extraordinary synchronized dance with wierd vocalizations, confirming that the Birds of Paradise are not just some of the most breathtakingly beautiful creatures on the planet, but also some of the most bizarre. WPE.
Lesser Bird of Paradise Paradisaea minor. The display tree of the Lesser BOP was only about 1.5km from the camp, but it was still quite a yomp through glutinous mud to reach it. Birds seemed to calling all around when we arrived, but just gave glimpses before we enjoyed the spectacle of two males displaying above our heads, bouncing about like animated pompoms in a flurry of white and gold plumes. One quickly runs out of superlatives when trying to describe the display of Birds of Paradise. NGE.
Hooded Butcherbird Cracticus cassicus. This handsome species, with its loud fluting calls was a characteristic species of forest edge on Biak and Weigeo, with up to 12 seen daily at both locations. NGE.
Black Butcherbird Cracticus quoyi. This species was common in the forests of the northern lowlands, to judge by the number of calls, but unlike Australian birds that boldly perch within feet of an observer these were elusive, and we only saw a pair in flight.
Lowland Peltops Peltops blainvillii. A handsome black white and red bird, reminiscent of a bush shrike, one was seen dismantling a large grasshopper in the northern lowlands. NGE.
Brown Oriole Oriolus azalayi. One NG bird at least that is put in the shade by its European counterpart, two birds were seen in the northern lowlands. NGE.
Stout-billed Cuckoo-shrike Coracina caeruleogrisea. One was seen in the Arfak Mountains, close to the Magnificent BOP site. NGE.
Boyer's Cuckoo-shrike Coracina boyeri. A party of four birds was seen in the Sorong lowlands, this species being a NG endemic.
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina papuensis. One bird was seen along forest edges near Lake Sentani.
Slender-billed Cicadabird Coracina incerta. I really should have seen this species in Australia. but failed so it was nice to find four birds on Biak with relative ease.
Black-browed Triller Lalage atrovirens. A neat and boldly marked Cuckoo-shrike, singles were seen twice on Biak, and another 4 were seen in the Sorong lowlands. NGE.
Willie-wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys. This reminder of Australia was very common oj Biak, ajd fairly common in somewhat degraded habitats elsewhere in WP.
Northern Fantail Rhipidura rufiventris. Five birds were seen in the northern lowlands.
Sooty Thicket-fantail Rhipidura threnothorax. There was a pair of these birds close to the camp, but althoigh they called constantly they were quite skulking, and it took patience and use of the tape to secure views of this NG endemic.
White-bellied Thicket-Fantail Rhipidura leucothorax. This species responded very quickly to a tape, and three were seen in the northern lowlands. NGE.
Black Fantail Rhipidura atra. This strongly dimorphic species was seen daily along forest edges in the Arfak Mountains. NGE.
Rufous Fantail Rhipidura rufifrons. Three birds were seen on the atoll of Wei.
Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus. A fairly common and widespread species, it was seen on Biak, in the northern lowlands and on Weigeo. At time it seemed most of the strange calls in the forest were made by drongoes!
Black Monarch Monarcha axillaris. This NG endemic was seen in the montane forests of the Arfak Mountains.
Biak Monarch Monarcha brehmii. It took a lot of searching in areas of forest on Biak before this bird was located, and even then it was hard to get decent views of this smart black, white and gold bird, as it flitted restlessly in the mid-story. WPE.
Spot-winged Monarch Monarcha guttulus. Birds were seen in the Northern Lowlands, and on Weigeo. NGE.
Hooded Monarch Monarcha manadensis. Some four examples of this NG endemic were seen in the Northern lowlands. NGE.
Golden Monarch Monarcha chrysomela. A rather stunning bird, that rather resembled a neo-tropical oriole, birds were seen on Biak, in the Northern lowlands and on Weigeo.
Frilled Monarch Arses telescophthalmus. We had very good views of a singing male on Weigeo.
Rufous-collared Monarch Arses insularis. Two birds were seen on separate occasions in the Northern Lowlands. NGE.
Biak Flycatcher Myiagra atra. This bird was relatively easy to locate along forest edges on Biak, and c5 were seen flying sallies along forest edges. WPE.
Shining Flycatcher Myiagra alecto. This species was fairly common in second growth and around streams in the Northern lowlands.
Yellow-breasted Boatbill Machaerirhynchus flaviventer. One example of this tiny black, yellow and white flycatcher with its curious bill was seen on Weigeo.
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata. A few birds seen in the grassland areas around Lake Sentani.
Metallic Starling Aplonis metallica. A common species on Biak, it was usually seen in small flocks.
Long-tailed Starling Aplonis magna. This was an obvious and easy to see West Papuan endemic on Biak.
Yellow-faced Myna Mino dumontii. Quite a striking bird that would obligingly perch high in trees, and call noisily, pairs were seen in both the Northern and Sorong lowlands.
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica. This species was seen at Lake Sentani, at Sorong and on Wei.
Tree Martin Petrochelidon nigricans. About 30 birds were hawking over the grasslands at Lake Sentani.
Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis. Some 10 birds seen in the grasslands at Lake Sentani.
Lemon-bellied White-eye Zosterops chloris. One bird was seen on Wei.
Biak White-eye Zosterops mysorensis. This WP endemic was surprisingly difficult to locate but eventually 4 were seen in second growth on Biak. This White-eye actually lacks the white eye ring.
Capped White-eye Zosterops fuscicapillus. Two birds were seen in the Arfak Mountains on 8/8.
Olive-crowned Flowerpecker Dicaeum (pectoralis) pectoralis. A few birds were seen along forest edges on Weigeo.
Red-crowned Flowerpecker Dicaeum (pectoralis) geelvinkianum. Several were seen on Biak.
Black Sunbird Leptocoma sericea. Several birds were seen in second growth and along forest edges on Biak.
Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis. This was a common species in rather degraded habitats on Biak and around villages in the northern lowlands.
Black Berrypecker Melanocharis nigra. The rest of the group saw this species around the camp on Weigeo.
Mid-montane Berrypecker. Not just a new bird, but an entirely new family of bird! One was seen in a mixed species flock in the Arfak Mountains.
Green-crowned Longbill Toxorhamphus novaeguineae. Very reminiscent of a Spiderhunter, two birds were seen on separate occasions in the Arfak Mountains.
Plumed Longbill Toxorhamphus iliolophus. One was seen in forest in the northern lowlands.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus. Not endangered in West Papua!
Crimson Finch Neochmia phaeton. About 5 birds were seen in grassland and scrub around Lake Sentani.
Grand Munia Lonchura grandis. This localized NG endemic was quite easy to locate in the grasslands around Lake Sentani, clearly larger than Hooded Munia, with a distinctive golden rump showing when birds are flying away.
Hooded Munia Lonchura spectabalis. About 10 birds seen in the grasslands around Lake Sentani.
White-striped Dorcopsis or Greater Forest Wallaby Dorcopsis hageni. This neat mammal was spotlighted on a pre-dawn walk with the spotlight in the northern lowlands.
Common Echymipera or Common Spiny Bandicoot Echymipera kalubu. Examples of this long snouted bandicoot were seen on Biak, in the northern lowlands, and on Weigeo.
White-tailed Rat Uromys caudimaculatus. One example of this agile tree climber was found with the spotlight on Weigeo. Relatively unafraid it viewed us from a perch in a tree for several minutes.